I'm trying out Homebrew, but I can't seem to figure out when uninstalling a 'formula', how to recursively remove the dependencies as well. I.e. Macports is:

$ port uninstall --follow-dependencies <portname>

How does this work with Homebrew?

5 Answers 5


A simple way to solve the problem of accumulating dependencies of deinstalled things is to periodically run brew leaves and compare it against a list of wanted leaves, and recursively remove everything else.

The following works, but of course is not very readable:

1) Show all the leaves minus the ones in your wanted list:

$ brew leaves | egrep -v 'bcwipe|brew-cask|lftp|mmv|mobile-shell|mplayer|node|octave|python|zsh'

2) Once you have adjusted the list (i.e. added new keepers), get rid of the rest:

$ brew uninstall `brew leaves|egrep -v 'bcwipe|brew-cask|git|lftp|mmv|mobile-shell|mplayer|node|octave|python|zsh'`

This usually has to be called a few times in a row to get them all, and the final call should be followed by a

$ brew cleanup

To beautify a bit, the list of keepers can of course be kept in a file somewhere.

  • If you assumed everything in /usr/local/bin was tied to a "wanted" item, you might be able to programmatically generate the wanted list. You'd miss pure library installations, but maybe easier than maintaining a hand list of wanted items.
    – Ian C.
    May 19, 2014 at 21:08
  • Very simple solution Mar 22, 2021 at 18:32

Like @Adam Vandenberg said, there's no easy way to do it.

However, I filed an issue on Homebrew's GitHub page, and it appears there's a workaround to solve this, until they add an exclusive command.

See my answer on StackOverflow for more info.

  • Is the exclusive command developed yet?
    – Nimesh Neema
    Sep 11, 2018 at 10:38

In 2021, you can now use brew autoremove: https://docs.brew.sh/Manpage#autoremove---dry-run


Unfortunately, Homebrew does not track dependencies in this way.


I just wrote a small wrapper script to add this functionality to brew. Source it in your .bashrc and it will track which packages you install, then recursively remove unneeded dependencies when you uninstall.


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